Drivers on freeways, city roads, and even parking lots are required to share routes with big rig trucks, 18-wheelers, buses and other massive vehicles. And of course, the drivers of these large commercial vehicles must share the road with those of us who drive cars. We legally owe a responsibility and standard of care to one another to make our commerce and trade function, and truck drivers go through training and certification in order to prove their ability and commitment to following the rules of the road. When these rules are ignored, overlooked, or forgotten, disasters can and do occur.
Driver negligence is the single most common reason for a truck accident. When you’ve been involved in a crash with a semi-truck, bus, or similar, your next steps are vital. You will need to give full medical attention to your injuries, often while simultaneously pursuing legal action against a trucking company and insurers.
The important goal for most injured clients typically involves restoring justice and obtaining the very best settlement or award of money damages you deserve from a lawsuit. Reaching that goal requires a focused strategy.
The essentials steps for what to do after a truck accident include:
Stay At The Crash Scene
In some states, leaving the scene of an accident could constitute a hit and run. Remain at the scene until authorities and medical help have arrived. Move the car if needed for safety. But if possible, leave the vehicle in the position where it came to rest after the crash. This will give you the best chance of preserving the evidence of what caused the wreck and the damages and injuries that resulted from it.
Call 9-1-1 For Help
Often these large truck accidents can mean severe injuries and even fatalities. Safety is your very top priority after an accident with an 18-wheeler truck or bus. If you can, call emergency services right away by dialing 9-1-1. In most circumstances, this will also dispatch the police who can help with gathering eyewitness accounts and creating a crash report.
Check Other Vehicles For Injuries If Possible
These accidents can often involve a semi-truck and several passenger vehicles. Give attention to your own immediate needs, but keep in mind that injuries and damage to other vehicles, or even to pedestrians, could exist, and may require assistance as well.
Snap Photos, Capture Videos & Record Audio
The crash scene immediately after the accident provides the strongest opportunity to capture the all-important evidence to prove that you were harmed due to someone else’s negligence. It also can show you are in a position to sue someone for wrongdoing.
Take photos of the damage to all vehicles, snapshots of the intersections or significant landmarks, pay attention to skid marks, and any other details that tell the story of what happened. If you can take video of all of these details, even better.
It might be dark and you may not have a pen. Audio recordings can offer a very helpful and more thorough solution. As soon as possible, record an audio account of everything you remember.
Having this fresh record of the facts can be critical, as details tend to change or can be forgotten with the passage of time. In some cases, truck crash lawsuits can take months and beyond to reach their conclusion. Keep these items safe for your records, and make backups. You may need to refer to them as you move forward with legal action.
Exchange Information With Other Drivers Involved
You’ll need this information later, so whenever possible, gather these items from each of the other drivers involved:
- Phone Number
- Driver’s License Number
- License Plate Number
- Insurance Carrier & Name of Agent
- Insurance Policy Number
Hold Off Before Making Any Statements About The Crash
You’ve probably heard the advice, “Whatever you do, don’t say it was your fault.” There’s some wisdom to this. Maybe a witness saw the other driver texting, or a stop light was not functioning correctly and was marked for repair. Even if you sense that you had some responsibility for what occurred, it’s smart to take some time, ask all the appropriate questions, and to make sure you are in a calm state of mind away from a jarring accident scene. Make a statement from a strong place, not in a moment of survival and vulnerability.
Have Your Case Evaluated By A Truck Accident Lawyer
It’s important to have experience on your side with someone who knows and fights big insurance companies, who often pour huge sums of money into protecting their truckers. Going it alone is the equivalent of performing surgery on yourself — that would make most people very, very nervous. Definitely not recommended.
Here’s one eye-opening audio conversation below about how truck accidents and lawsuits work. Full transcription of audio availabile here.
Follow All Medical Advice & Attend All Doctor Appointments
If you are dealing with injuries, a major goal in all of this is for you and your loved ones to really care for your health. This is important not just for you, but for the defense attorneys on the other side that are watching to make sure you actually attend these appointments and are genuinely injured. Not following the advice of doctors could backfire on your claim of wrongdoing, and might make it look like you’re not really that hurt. Keep records of all medical visits and payments. You very well may need to include these with the evidence for your case.
Report The Accident To The Police, DMV Or Other Authority
Every state has different laws on accident reporting requirements. In the state of Kentucky, for example, you must report a crash to the State Police whenever injuries or death is involved or if property damage is $500 or more.
Begin Legal Action By Filing A Lawsuit – Timing Is Critical
There is absolutely a deadline for filing a truck accident lawsuit called the Statute of Limitations. The clock is ticking every moment. To miss the deadline in many cases might mean a giant missed opportunity to restore justice and receive the compensation you need and deserve for medical expenses, missed work and your pain and suffering. Don’t put off legal action.
Also realize that evidence must be collected. If you let even days go by, evidence of a crash scene may have vanished forever. Stories change over time and our minds can forget critical details with each passing day. Help your case by initiating legal action as soon as you are physically able to.
Provide a Car Accident Checklist To Your Loved Ones
If you’ve already been in collision with a truck, you hold the difficult, but unique perspective of being able to help and warn others who might go through the same thing in the future. A car crash checklist stored in the glove compartment of your each vehicle in your family, should be considered essential for new drivers and experienced drivers who know that it makes sense to always be prepared for the unexpected.